THIS year’s showpiece event in the NZ endurance sport calendar, the Coast to Coast, is being billed ‘the clash of champions’, with defending title-holder and CurraNZ athlete, Dougal Allan, facing three-time winner, Sam Clark.
According to Dougal, whose impressive series of victories last year shot him to the top in Multisport, he’s says he’s taken his game to another level for this showdown.
The 34-year-old says: “After reflecting on my win last year, my motivation to do another wasn’t about claiming a second or third win. I made the commitment to come back in the shape of my life. And I’ve done that – I’m going there the fittest and best prepared I’ve ever been.”
In the two-and-a-half years since starting with CurraNZ, the accomplished Kiwi Ironman triathlete has achieved many career highlights and risen to the summit of Multisport – and refers to it as a ‘game changing’ supplement.
According to Dougal, after having the most successful year of his life as a professional athlete, he’s gone up to another level of the fitness – and his training data confirms this.
“I’ve seen big differences from year to year using CurraNZ. I train my body through the full spectrum - slow energy training, tempo work, threshold stuff, VO2max – and I personally feel I’m more efficient at every level of output.
“Everything this year has moved on a notch. My running threshold on the track has improved – even my coach was taken aback. In my last 8.1km track session I was 5 seconds per kilometre faster and my maximum heart rate was seven beats lower. That reading was taken at exactly the same phase in training, at exactly the same date, two weeks before last year’s race.
“That’s significant, particularly in the Coast to Coast – that adds up to a lot of improvement and at a lower cost too.
“While it’s probably part of the evolution as an athlete, I’ll happily attribute some of that to CurraNZ’s vasodilatory action. In terms of your heart being a pump, blackcurrant creates less resistance and helps your body deliver more blood and oxygen, so it all stacks up, doesn’t it?”
A recent oversight saw him run out of capsules before his biggest training block for the Coast to Coast, which provided an unwelcome reminder of life without ‘the magic berries’.
The first time he’d trained without CurraNZ since 2017, he says: “It was the worst time to run out. I was up in Arthur’s Pass, where I had to do two days of ‘the Double’ – the full three-hour run of the Coast 2 Coast course and the full four-hour paddle. I thought I was feeling all right before tackling it for the second time, but I wasn’t and it got ugly. I did what I needed to do but I was absolutely toast.
“My recovery after that wasn’t great, to be honest. I got home that weekend and resumed things, but on the Sunday, after doing a 70km bike ride, I couldn’t face completing the day’s program with a run and a paddle.
“It was the first time this season I skipped some training, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it and threw in the towel.
“The last day I’d had off training was December 14 – so it can’t be a coincidence that this blip came after running out of CurraNZ.
“Then the CurraNZ turned up Monday and I had to resist chugging them back in one hit!”
Once again, Dougal will again be relying on CurraNZ in the race, which will see him running, mountain biking and kayaking across the spine of the South Island, which he covered in ten and a half hours last year.
“I take two capsules before the race starts. Last year I also redosed about five and a half hours into the race, at the beginning of the kayak – which is ‘make or break’ for most people but it was the deciding stage for me.
“I had the fastest kayak stage split in the Coast to Coast across all categories, including team paddlers, which was a pretty cool achievement.”
This year his paddling prowess on point again, as Dougal reveals has been using the services of Olympic coach Gordon Walker, (of K1 Queen Lisa Carrington fame) who has been overseeing his four-month preparation.
It’s been seven years since Sam and Dougal, rated the best in the world in Multisport (pictured above after their run of wins in China with CurraNZ last year), eyeballed each other in NZ’s iconic 243km race.
While Dougal had the upper hand in those early 2008-13 encounters, the outcome is not so clearcut this time.
Dougal says: “Sam is probably the only one in the field who can foot it with me the full distance. He has no weakness in this race.
“I beat him every time we met in the C2C, but then I went chasing Ironman for a few years and he went up another level.
“Watching him from afar, and seeing how impressive he was in all three victories, I remember thinking ‘man, given I’d never lost to him, if I’d continued on the same trajectory, would I have won that race?’”
This year, we get to find out, and Dougal is savouring the prospect of the ‘Longest Day’.
He says: “Sam entering gave me the rev I needed – he is that sort of athlete. I was ticking the boxes in training but my motivation, admittedly, probably wasn’t quite there.
“For someone like me, in the peak of my career, I want the best athletes on the start line. I would rather have a hectic battle across country with Sam and be tested to my absolute limits because that’s where I’m at in my career. I don’t want to be left wondering if I had the mettle to beat someone who has won the race three times.”